Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Rim Fire

Dale Matson

“No arrests have been made, and the hunter's name is being withheld "pending further investigation," Forest Service spokesman Ray Mooney said. Investigators declined to release further details Thursday, including where he's from, whether they have interviewed him and whether there were other hunters involved.”
(Paul Rodgers, San Jose Mercury News 09-05-13

It surprised me that there was no immediate claim about the cause of the fire by the U.S. Forest Service when the fire began in mid-August in the Stanislaus National Forest. My wife and I were returning from the east side of the Sierras via highway 120 over Tioga Pass on August 23rd when we saw the enormous smoke plume as early as the eastern gate of Yosemite. At that time 120 westbound was still open and the fire had not entered Yosemite Park.

It was initially reported that the cause of the Rim Fire was ‘unknown’. Then it was reported that the Rim Fire was caused by illegal marijuana growers. This reason was then denied because the area was too steep and there was no water source to grow the plants. Since that time the fire has been attributed to the illegal campfire of a ‘hunter’. It almost seems to me that government officials are reaching for a plausible cause that will also offer up a politically correct explanation and appeal to those opposed to guns. What follows is a quote from one of those who responded to the article in the San Jose Mercury News article written by Paul Rodgers. [Slightly edited]

“Hey, this response is to you, Paul Rogers, the author who wrote this article. Did you conduct any investigative journalism to validate/verify that this fire was started by a hunter? Have any of you in the media asked what an alleged hunter was doing in Zone D6 when hunting season isn't even open until Sept 21st? (Check the DFG regulations which are open for public viewing) I'd like to see the media produce some evidence...but no, they are just interested in narratives and story lines.

Could this be our failed government and the stupid media once again partnering to blame a terrible tragedy on gun owners? This is an endless effort to distort the truth and perpetuate myths in their mutual war on gun owners and gun ownership? If this alleged hunter was in Zone D6, "hunting", then he/she was there illegally and will get prosecuted for that. If an individual did start this fire, then I think they were at best a hiker or a stupid "poacher" and clearly not a law abiding hunter.” (Drew McLaughlin)

At this point, it remains a mystery to me that the individual(s) that started this fire has/have not been identified. Additionally, IF it was an illegal hunter hunting out of season, then the individual should be referred to as a poacher and not a ‘hunter’ and prosecuted accordingly.

In any event, I hope that the U.S. Forest Service will review their policy on the management of our national forests and not just pass fires like this off as caused by climate change and bad prior fire management practices. Privately managed forests have been demonstrated to be less fire prone because they are thinned and harvested. There is a Montana State University white paper on this that I no longer have access to.

Do we need to even rethink the concept of designating an area as “wilderness”? Fire policy in our National Parks where a U.S. Forest Service official told me confidentially that a “let burn” policy contributed to fires getting out of control in Yellowstone in 1988, burning over 800,000 acres.


  1. Here is the white paper by Holly Fretwell a researcher for Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) Bozeman.

  2. here is a good update from the Modesto Bee.

  3. Today's Fresno Bee indicated that Keith Matthew Emerald appeared in Federal Court in Fresno and pleaded not guilty to setting the Rim Fire.